What is Sensory Play?
Sensory Play is a fairy new and exciting part of child development, allowing children to learn through experience.
The theory is that, whilst your child may be learning to talk, and their first words could happen at any time, all their senses have been developing constantly since birth.
These senses can be stimulated, and bonds built between child and parent, without the need for verbal communication.
Your child may have developed a question, and have no way of communicating it verbally. Sensory play encourages your child to scratch, sniff, lick, grab, stare, rub etc. Investigating, using their senses, and answering the question themselves.
Sensory play is also used to develop the neurological pathways associated with each sense. Motor skills also get a boost, as children manipulate whatever material or tools they have been given. Creative, Dramatic skills come in to play, as children use their imagination to find new ways to use these materials and tools.
Ideas for Sensory Play
The best way to control Sensory Play is to make sure all activity happens within a designated space. Use a plastic tray or box, and even introduce a lid to signal when playtime has started and finished.
Sticky - Take some left-over white bread and add your child's choice of food colouring. Green for example. Then pour on four dollops of PVA glue. This makes a sticky (and cheap) alternative to playdough, that will stimulate the smells and touch senses.
Shaving Foam - Mix straight from the can with food colouring to make bright and vibrant bath-paints. Just make it clear that you are in charge of the can and that no foam goes in their mouths.
Mud - Again, using a tray, set up a mud bath kitchen in the garden. This allows for sensory play with Mud with a quarter of the mess!
Jelly - Make a batch of jelly. Whatever flavour, it doesn't matter as this is for playing with and not eating. If it can fill your play tray even better. Encourage your child to mix into the slimy jelly some alphabet magnets from the fridge. This will combine the idea of touch, colours and shapes.
Sand box - A classic. Introduce any of your child's toys you don't mind getting a little mucky to introduce the concept of sand with something more familiar.
Touchy Feely Runway - Lay down a number of different, flat surfaces on the floor and secure if needed. These could include a cork board, some bubble wrap, cling film or a place mat from the table. Allow your child to walk, roll or craw along the runway and experience each texture.
Do you have your own sensory play ideas? Let us know in the comments, via twitter or facebook.